The application for 158 properties on land south of Bluebell Court, East Cottingwood, was approved by 12 votes to one at the Tuesday, November 3, meeting of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee.
It was described as phase 1B of the re-development of the former St George’s Hospital site, but there were concerns that it was not in keeping with the approved outline scheme, which indicated 115 properties on this plot.
The proposals had therefore sparked objections from Morpeth Town Council and 42 others, but the bid was recommended for approval by planning officers, who explained that this was a new full application, although the applicants had ‘regard to’ the outline permission.
A submission from Tim Lloyd, on behalf of a number of residents of St George’s Wood – phase 1A of the development, raised a number of concerns about the 37% increase in the number of homes and the extra traffic it would cause.
“Our group asserts that there isn’t a world in which these changes from the outline application could possibly be categorised as insignificant and justifiable,” he said.
The meeting also heard a statement from Cllr Andrew Tebbutt, for Morpeth Town Council, who described it as a ‘massive over-development’.
He also said that the proposal ‘rides roughshod’ over the commitment from the Homes and Communities Agency for this to be a development which ‘honoured the special nature of this site’.
However, James Hall, representing the other applicant Vistry Group, formerly Linden Homes, described this application as a ‘well-considered and sensitively designed scheme that complements its hospital estate and woodland setting’.
There was also concern about the perceived conflict with the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan, but when asked about this later in the meeting, planning officer Tamsin Wood said that this site is allocated for 375 homes and this doesn’t go beyond that.
Asked about over-development, director of planning Rob Murfin said that while it is denser than in the outline masterplan, there had been criticism that all of the houses being built in Morpeth were larger ‘executive’ properties and this would address the need for smaller family homes.
The housing mix will comprise 13 two-bedroom homes (three terraced and 10 semi-detached), 81 three-bedroom houses (38 semi-detached and 43 detached), and 64 detached four-bedroom properties.
Moving approval, Cllr Trevor Thorne said: “It is quite different from the outline application, but the higher density is responding to market needs.”
Cllr Jeff Reid was the only committee member to vote against the scheme, saying: “Why aren’t people thinking about the place they’re building the homes? They are thinking about the house types they’ve designed so that they can maximise the profit.
“They are not doing this to provide cheaper houses, they are cramming them in so that they can make as much money as they would have done if they built the houses they wanted.
“I can’t in all conscience support this because they are being built for the wrong reasons.”
In response, Cllr Thorne said that he did believe ‘the applicant in this instance is responding to market demand’ and that while high-density, the design of the development is attractive.
Approval is subject to the completion of a section 106 agreement to secure 10% affordable housing, a woodland management scheme and contributions totalling £500,000. Of this, £47,500 is for coastal mitigation measures while the rest will be spent on education, health and bus incentive measures, to be decided by the council.